Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan, a retired firefighter and decorated United State Army veteran, has come out as gay in his own obituary, expressing that he can “rest in peace” now that his “secret is known.”

Ryan, who was in a relationship with a man for twenty-five years, revealed his sexuality in an obituary published on 8 June by the Albany Times Union.

The obituary, which initially listed many of Ryan’s achievements, included a personal note where he disclosed that he had not come out during his lifetime due to fear of ostracism.


“I must tell you one more thing. I was gay all my life: through grade school, through high school, college, through life,” he wrote.

Ryan mentioned his 25-year relationship with Paul Cavagnaro, who passed away in 1994. “He was the love of my life… I’ll be buried next to Paul.”

Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan
Restored photo of Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan

He expressed regret for not having the courage to come out while alive. “I’m sorry for not having the courage to come out as gay. I was afraid of being ostracised by family, friends, and co-workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever rest in peace.”

Ryan’s obituary highlighted his educational achievements, noting that he held Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. He was a retired firefighter for the city of Rensselaer in New York State and had been decorated for his service in the army, including receiving a Defence of Liberty Medal for “participation to the state following the attack on America, 11 September 2001.”

Ryan, one of six siblings, was remembered fondly by his nieces and nephews. He was 85.

Social media users paid tribute to Ryan, with many highlighting his fear of being ostracised as a reason why Pride Month remains important.

“Rest in pride. How wonderful to have a great love that you so fondly remember 30 years after his death. I wish you could have lived openly in life,” one person wrote.